Letter to the New Canaan High School parent community:
Dear NCHS Parent:
I am not sure that this is the comprehensive PFA mailing list, but I will start with you and hope that it gets passed along so that lots and lots of NCHS parents (including current eighth grade parents whose children will attend the high school next year) get the news.
First, let me apologize. I have been out of touch this year. After submitting monthly library updates to the RamOGram for six years, I stopped. I included a link to my blog on the renovated NCHS Library website, http://www.nchslmc.org, and it seemed redundant to duplicate my posts in print. I was also hoping to generate parent traffic at the new website. In hindsight, I think I made a mistake. For one thing, I stopped posting to my blog back in the fall (as you can see, I am posting again). So clearly, the pressure and deadline involved in RamOGram submissions motivated me to write regularly. My decision also presumes that folks want to read our news online, which is simply not the case. So I apologize, and I promise to keep in touch next year.
This is the time of year when parents ask about summer reading. With the exception of individual teachers, particularly in AP courses, the high school does not impose any summer reading requirements on students. That being said, our library annually publishes a recommended reading list that is primarily comprised of recently published books we think will appeal to our students. We ask students and teachers for recommendations; we include many award-winning books, and featured works in publishing and library literature.
We usually feature 50 books. They cover the full spectrum of genres. We include young adult literature as well as adult literature, although this year, adult literature outweighs young adult. We welcome feedback about that decision. I want to give special thanks to my colleague, Christina Russo, who single-handedly compiled the list this year. Students and teachers contributed suggestions through a form on the nchslmc.org website. This was a new approach for us and we were pleased with the results. Nearly 20 students and 15 teachers recommended books that way.
The New Canaan Library (in town) uses the list. We have a great collaboration there. We send over our collection of summer reading books for the summer and they buy what we don’t yet have. So the entire collection is available to students throughout the summer, and prominently displayed on a special cart at New Canaan Library. They send over their circulation statistics for our summer reading collection at the end of the season.
So we know what kids (and/or parents) are borrowing, but not why. At the high school, we never really know what kids are actually reading during the summer, if at all. We don’t know what they like and don’t like. We don’t know what we missed on the list. We don’t know if anyone actually sees the list! It is all very one-sided. We say, “Here, try this.” And that’s pretty much where it ends.
We wanted to develop a plan that might generate a discussion between students about what they read. So we are trying a Web 2.0 approach to summer reading this year. We guessed that popular social networking and collaborative online tools might help us generate interest in summer reading. We posted our summer reading list in three places: our website’s book discussion forum, LibraryThing, and FaceBook (putting FaceBook to constructive use). All of these links are available on the www.nchslmc.org home page.
In FaceBook, we are using the application Visual Bookshelf to post reviews, but students can just post comments to the New Canaan High School Library FaceBook page, if they don’t want to download the Visual Bookshelf application. We also have a New Canaan High School Library group in FaceBook. Sixteen NCHS students joined last weekend alone! When students join that group, I will be alerted.
In LibraryThing, students will need to register (they have to be older than 13). LibraryThing registration only asks for a user name and a password. Even the email address is optional. I will be notified when new members join the New Canaan High School Library group.
Our nchslmc.org website book discussion forum requires no registration or membership. It is just less visually appealing and a little clunky.
We met with the English department last week to discuss this program. They agreed to offer recognition to students who participate in the Summer Reading 2.0 program. If students join the New Canaan High School Library group(s), I will be able to keep track of their posts. If they post to the nchlsmc.org book discussion forum, they should include their name in the post or email me that they posted (my email is at the bottom of the forum page) if they don’t want to post their name. I need to know who is posting so that I can let the teachers know who participated. We will enter participants’ names in a drawing for $50.00 iTunes gift certificates.
This is all very new and experimental for us. We have no idea how it will turn out. We do feel as though this is the best way to get high school students involved in summer reading. We are impressed with the success of the Battle of the Books program (at Saxe). We can’t quite replicate that at this level, but we can offer a “next step.” It can’t be worse than our old, “Here, read this. The end.” approach.
Have a great summer, and happy reading!